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Off the Hook Helping your kids avoid addiction.

experimentation, but it doesn’t lead to addiction. That requires deeper problems, according to Pemberton. “My belief is that they get relief from something,” he says. “There’s depres- sion, there’s anxiety, there’s a trauma, there’s a learning disability, there’s something else there that they end up self-medicating.” If you think something’s going on,

talk with a pediatrician, school coun- selor, therapist or other mental-health professional about the problems you perceive. “Catching them early is key,” Pemberton says.

YOU DON’T HAVE TO look far to find chilling statistics about substance abuse among kids. According to University of Michigan research, half of American kids have tried an illicit drug before high school graduation, one in 10 high school seniors admits to recent extreme binge drinking (defined as having 10 or more drinks in a single sitting) and nearly 13 percent of eighth-graders say they’ve smoked marijuana in the past year. Some kids even throw “pill

parties,” according to Charles Pemberton, Ed.D., a Cubmaster and the principal therapist at Dimensions Family Therapy in Louisville, Ky. “Everybody brings their pill of choice, and they go into a big vase. People just randomly take some,” he says. Not surprisingly, many of those


kids end up in trouble. “We see kids in treatment who are 13 or 14 years old,” says Richard Foster, Ph.D., executive vice president of treatment programs for Gateway Rehabilitation Center in Aliquippa, Pa. “We see them in our teen program and 10 or 12 years later, they’re in our adult program and then they show up in our corrections program someday. It’s sad to see the progression.” Fortunately, you can stop that pro-

gression from ever starting. And you don’t have to lock up your kids — or your liquor and medicine cabinets — to do so. Pemberton and Foster offer some practical tips.

Address Underlying Issues The first thing to understand is that peer pressure may lead to

Model Good Behavior If the adults in your household drink responsibly, you don’t need to go on the wagon to set a good example. In fact, says Foster, kids need to see adults using alcohol responsibly. (They certainly see enough irresponsible drinking on television and in the movies.) “It’s important that kids grow up in environments where it’s either not there at all or it’s there and used responsibly,” he says. So should parents who imbibe

wait to drink until the kids are in bed? Foster doesn’t think so. “It’s better to have it out in the open and be able to talk about it than to sneak,” he says. Modeling good behavior extends

to prescription drugs. “We live in a world that answers a lot of questions with medication; in some ways it sends a bad message when kids see mom and dad take pills every day and we never tell them what that’s

FIND MORE RESOURCES on preventing drug and alcohol abuse at


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